Sanjeev Kumar Patro

News Highlights

  • The relations between India and Russia are on an upward trajectory and have a strong bilateral content, based on mutual interest, that leads to a ‘special and privileged’ strategic partnership. These time-tested relations are not affected by any individual issue or crisis," Minister Singh stated.

With the Russian President launching a full-scale assault on Ukraine on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dialled Prez Vladimir Putin in the night hours. Chinese President Xi Jinping had a telephonic conversation with the Russian Prez today at around 5:30 PM Indian time.

Modi-Putin Talk  

As per the release by PMO, Russian President Vladimir Putin briefed Prime Minister Modi about the recent developments regarding Ukraine. The Prime Minister reiterated his long-standing conviction that the differences between Russia and the NATO can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.

Besides, as per the press release, the PM has also appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, calling for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue.

During his talk, President Putin briefed PM Modi on the recent developments with regard to Ukraine. The Indian PM had also sensitised the Russian President about India's concerns regarding the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine, especially students, and conveyed that India attaches the highest priority to their safe exit and return to India.

The leaders agreed that their officials and diplomatic teams would continue to maintain regular contacts on issues of topical interest.

Xi - Putin Talk

As per the reports in Chinese official media, the President of China Xi Jinping held a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday afternoon.

The reports added that during his call to President Putin, the Chinese President had told the Russian Prez that China supports Russia and Ukraine to resolve the issue through negotiation. He further reiterated that China's basic position on respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter is consistent.

Meanwhile, in today's media briefing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, "China has always decided its position and policy based on the facts of the issue at hand and stands on the side of peace and justice."

He then added that China believes that the Ukraine issue has a complicated history and that the legitimate security concerns of all parties should be respected and the Cold War mentality should be completely abandoned.

India Foreign Ministry's Position

In a reply in Parliament recently, MoS External Affairs VK Singh had said, "The Government has emphasized the need for all sides to exercise restraint and work together constructively to find political and diplomatic solutions, involving all stakeholders, to restore peace and normalcy in Ukraine and in the region."

The Minister then added that India has also expressed support for the unity and territorial integrity of all countries.

"The relations between India and Russia are on an upward trajectory and have a strong bilateral content, based on mutual interest, that leads to a ‘special and privileged’ strategic partnership. These time-tested relations are not affected by any individual issue or crisis," Singh stated.

Flashback 2014

Exactly eight years back, on March 2, 2014, when the Russian Federation Council authorised use of  armed forces in Ukraine, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson had said that, " China is deeply concerned about the current situation in Ukraine.” He then called on “the relevant parties in Ukraine to resolve their internal disputes peacefully within the legal framework.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin had then emphasized that China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. "A solution should be found based on respect for international law and norms,” the spokesperson reiterated and at the same time stated that there are reasons for why the situation in Ukraine is what it is today.

India's Stand On Crimea Accession

The then-National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon had on Mar 6, 2014, said, " As far as we are concerned, we are watching what is happening in Ukraine with some concern. We would
hope that whatever internal issues there are within Ukraine are settled peacefully and that the broader issues of reconciling the various interests involved, and there are after all legitimate Russian and other interests involved, are discussed, negotiated, and that there is a satisfactory resolution to them."

The Key Takeaways

The above citation shows that the stand taken by two geopolitical rivals - India and China -  with regard to the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been on similar lines.

Reasons Behind India's Passive Stand

As per a policy brief study by Dr Varun Sahni, Professor in International Politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University for Norwegian Peacebuilding  Resource Centre,

" India, like most other post-colonial countries, is acutely sensitive to any deviations from or violations of territorial integrity. As former victims of colonialism, the memory of external powers intervening to enforce arbitrary lines on the map is still fresh in their political cultures. Indeed, most post-colonial states are themselves the outcome of political boundaries drawn to suit the geopolitical needs of colonial powers rather than ethnocultural realities on the ground."

He then explained, "In the elemental struggle between the principles of territorial integrity and self-determination, it is therefore not surprising that most post-colonial countries, India included, have emphasised the former."

The second reason behind this is, "India’s own geopolitical circumstances make it extremely wary of any attempt to change the territorial status quo on the grounds of ethnocultural affinities. Two of India’s neighbours, China and Pakistan, occupy and lay claim to territory that India considers to be it's own. Therefore, not surprising that the country is suspicious and dismissive of arguments that seek to alter the territorial status quo on the grounds of kinship across sovereign borders and considers such arguments to be a threat to international peace and security."

For this reason, India has never justified the Russian strategy to change the status quo of sovereign borders.

The third reason has been, as per Dr Sinha, besides strategic partnership, its increasing security dependence on Russia. India imports nearly 75 percent of its defence requirements from Russia.

"As Russia is currently fundamental to India’s military modernisation programme, the Indian government would therefore be unwilling to alienate Russia, and particularly President Putin, beyond a certain point," he observed.

The Chinese Interest

As per experts, the People's Republic of China, while talking about territorial integrity, remains passive because the strategy of PRC has also been the same. It utilises armed power to lay claim on territories that the country thinks belongs to China's mainland historically.  

For instance, the PRC under incumbent President Xi Jinping has repeatedly asserted that it will reunite Taiwan with the mainland. The Chinese side is therefore keeping a close watch of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reactions of the USA and EU.